The History of Dracula’s Castle

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM GOOGLE +, FROM THE POST OF STANLEY OUL)

 

The History of Dracula’s Castle

Everyone knows something about Dracula, the famous character from Bram Stocker’s book that had such a great resonance. What not everyone knows is that Bran Castle is the place that inspired the writer. The truth is that Bram Stocker had never been to Romania, and he built the entire story by inspiring from books and pictures that described Vlad III Dracul, (c. 1431 – 1476), and the Bran Castles’ stories. His character is built following the stories about Vlad Tepes and his cruelty.

Bran Castle was first mentioned in documents in 1377 when it was built by the Saxons of Kronstadt at their own expense and labor force. But this beautiful medieval castle is older than that. Initially, it was built as a wooden castle guarding an important mountain pass by the Teutonic Knights in 1212, when King Andrew II of Hungary invited them into the small but strategically sensitive Burzenland in return for guarding the southeastern border of the Kingdom of Hungary against the Kipchak-Cuman confederation.

The Teutonic Knights had quite a different point of view and planned to establish their own, independent state in the area. King Andrew II, (1175 – 1235, king of Hungary from 1205 until his death), quickly realized what was going on, and in 1225 he expelled the Teutonic Order from his realm, before it managed to grow powerful enough to oppose him. In this tim, this wooden fortified settlement was called Dietrichstein, and it was destroyed by the Mongols in 1242 during the Mongol Invasion.

As time passed, and military conflicts intensified, the castle was heavily fortified and was used over the ages as a defensive position against the invading Ottoman Empire. Despite popular belief, Vlad III Dracul had little to do with the castle, although he passed through the area occasionally. In fact, it has never been the property of Wallachian prince. He may have stayed at Bran for a few days (not even that is so certain, though), but it was definitely not his castle.

Besides playing an important military role, Bran Castle also had a commercial purpose. Being placed at the border of two important regions, it provided safe passage from one location to another, thus improving the relations and economic development of both Wallachia and Transylvania. Bran remained a key military strategic position at the crossroads of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Principality of Moldavia and the Principality of Wallachia up until the 18th century.

In 1917, the town of Brasov donated the castle to the Emperor of Austro-Hungary, Franz Joseph I, (1830 – 1916). After the end of World War I, the castle has been donated once again by the city of Brasov, but this time to Queen Mary Of Romania (1875 – 1938; Marie of Edinburgh). After her death, the castle passed to Princess Ileana’s property, (1909 -1991), Queen Mary’s daughter, and the archduke Anton of Habsburg’s wife, (1901 – 1987).

After the forced abdication of Romania’s Royal Family in 1947, the castle passed into Romanian state property, and in 1950 was granted as National Monument. In 2005, the Romanian government passed a special law allowing restitution claims on properties illegally expropriated, such as Bran, and thus a year later the castle was awarded ownership to Dominic von Habsburg, (born in 1937), the son and heir of Princess Ileana. Nowadays, it is a museum.

The castle has 57 rooms and a secret passageway leading up to the watch towers. It is situated on a cliff at an elevation of 762 meters (2500 feet), and is surrounded by valleys and hills. Much of the furniture and the artwork that hangs from the castle’s walls today belonged to the Queen Marie.

Photo: The Bran Castle, situated near Bran and in the immediate vicinity of Braşov in Romania.

http://www.bran-castle.com/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Bran_Castle

Photo

Guatemala Played A Key Role In The Jewish State’s Creation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Why a small Central American nation became a trailblazer on Jerusalem

Guatemala played a key role in the Jewish state’s creation and has enjoyed Israeli security assistance ever since. It doesn’t hurt that its leader is deeply religious

Raphael Ahren

Guatemala's new ambassador to Israel, Dr. Juan Garcia Granados leaving the President's Residence in Jerusalem after presenting his credentials, July 1955 (Moshe Pridan/GPO)

Guatemala’s new ambassador to Israel, Dr. Juan Garcia Granados leaving the President’s Residence in Jerusalem after presenting his credentials, July 1955 (Moshe Pridan/GPO)

On Sunday, Guatemala became the first country after the US to announce its intention to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move seen as tantamount to recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, though President Jimmy Morales’s statement included no explicit recognition.

Predictably, the Central American nation’s decision was castigated by the Palestinians and other Arab states and hailed in Israel as an act of deep friendship that marked the beginning of a new trend. Neighbor Honduras is said to be next in line. Like Guatemala, it also voted last week against the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning the US’s December 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there.

Other countries — Togo, Paraguay, Romania, Slovakia — are also said to be considering following in Guatemala’s footsteps in bucking decades-old diplomatic dogma to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

But what prompted a relatively small nation far removed from the Middle East and its problems to be the first to take the plunge after the US?

There are several reasons for Guatemala’s dramatic step. The country’s well-established historic friendship with Israel and ongoing deep security and trade ties are one key part of the story. The personal character of the country’s current leader is the other.

Seventy years ago, Guatemala’s ambassador to the UN, Dr. Jorge Garcia Granados, a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, played a crucial role in convincing Latin American countries to vote in favor of General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state.

File photo of the vote on the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947 (photo credit: Israeli Government Press Office)

The vote on the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947. (Israeli Government Press Office/File)

“It could be that without Guatemala, the resolution on that fateful day would not have passed, and history would be very different,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told Morales during his November 2016 visit to Israel.

At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled that he had grown up in Jerusalem near a street named after Morales’s country. “In just about every town in Israel there is a Guatemala Street because we remember Guatemala’s friendship and the friendship and leadership of your UN ambassador at the time of the decision on the Partition Resolution, and so Guatemala was etched into our hearts then,” he said.

Guatemala was one of the first countries to recognize the nascent State of Israel in 1948, and the friendship has remained strong ever since.

Telegrams of recognition of the State of Israel sent by Guatemala, Finland and Romania (courtesy GPO)

In the 1970s, Israel was said to have assisted the military juntas ruling Guatemala a great deal in the area of counterinsurgency, providing them with advice and equipment.

“Israeli-Guatemalan military cooperation began in 1971, during the presidency of Col. Carlos Arana Osario,” political scientist Cheryl Rubenberg wrote in a 1986 article on bilateral relations.

“Then the Guatemalan chief of staff, Kjell Laugerud Garcia, visited Israel and met with Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and other Israeli military officials. Laugerud Garcia expressed Guatemala’s interest in procuring armaments and military communications equipment. Later that year, the two countries signed their first cooperation agreement, though specifics were not made public,” she wrote.

Guatemala saw the Jewish state “as the world’s foremost practitioner of counterinsurgency” and looked to Jerusalem for expertise and arms, according to Rubenberg. “Israeli assistance began in 1971, but it took on increased importance after 1977, when the Guatemalan generals rejected US military aid in response to Carter administration pressures to remedy their gross human rights violations.”

Later that year, Israeli president Ephraim Katzir spent a week in Guatemala City, where he signed an agreement on military assistance.

Three years later, the Knesset passed a law declaring that united Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, leading the Security Council to call on all countries to withdraw their embassies from the city. Guatemala heeded the call and moved its embassy to Herzliya.

Relations with Israel remained strong, however. At least 300 Israeli security “advisers” were said to have operated in Guatemala in the early 1980s. “Israel is known to have intelligence teams, security and communications specialists, and military training personnel in Guatemala,” The New York Times reported at the time, though Israeli diplomats denied such claims.

Ties were also strong in the fields of civilian technology and tourism, among others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President of Guatemala Otto Pérez Molina at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem. December 9, 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In December 2013, Otto Fernando Perez Molina became the first president of Guatemala to visit Israel. “Guatemala did participate in the foundation of Israel, so that has led the foundations for a tradition and the unity between our two peoples,” he told Netanyahu at the time.

Fast forward to 2015, when Morales — a former comedian who’d never held political office — won the country’s presidential elections with 67 percent of the votes. Morales, a devout Evangelical, has been called “the Donald Trump of Guatemala.” In 2016, Guatemala received nearly $300 million in aid from the US.

Morales, who called his country’s relationship with Israel “excellent,” has been supportive of many of the current US administration’s policies, including Trump’s plan to build a border wall with Mexico, and, of course, his plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (R) and wife Gilda Marroquin visit the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on November 28, 2016. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

On his visit to Israel last year — during which he received an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem — he announced his hope to strengthen bilateral cooperation in many fields.

“Guatemala has a special relationship with Israel, and we know we can continue to work together: in partnership and hand in hand,” he told President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. “During our visit we hope we will be able to enjoy Israel’s rich culture and history, and learn from you how to improve in the areas of agriculture, husbandry, and technology — areas in which Israel excels.”

READ MORE:

Corrupt Leaning Romanian Government Survives No Confidence Vote After Hundreds Of Thousands Protest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Romania’s Government Survives Vote of No Confidence Amid Protests

9:13 AM Eastern

(BUCHAREST, Romania) — Romania’s center-left government has survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence after mass protests.

Ioana Bran, the parliamentary secretary said 161 lawmakers voted in support of the motion, short of the 232 votes needed for it to pass.

“We can say that the necessary majority has not been met, according to the constitution, for the vote to pass,” Bran said.

Hundreds of thousands of people protested against the government after it passed an emergency ordinance last week to decriminalize some official corruption.

The government eventually scrapped the ordinance and the bill will now be debated and approved by the parliament.

Lost World Of Shipwrecks Have Been Found In The Black Sea Off Of Bulgarian Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIME’S, SCIENCE SECTION)

An image of the well-preserved medieval ship found at the bottom of the Black Sea, one of more than 40 wrecks discovered. Photogrammetry, a process using thousands of photographs and readings, produced a rendering that appears three-dimensional.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

The medieval ship lay more than a half-mile down at the bottom of the Black Sea, its masts, timbers and planking undisturbed in the darkness for seven or eight centuries. Lack of oxygen in the icy depths had ruled out the usual riot of creatures that feast on sunken wood.

This fall, a team of explorers lowered a robot on a long tether, lit up the wreck with bright lights and took thousands of high-resolution photos. A computer then merged the images into a detailed portrait.

Archaeologists date the discovery to the 13th or 14th century, opening a new window on forerunners of the 15th- and 16th-century sailing vessels that discovered the New World, including those of Columbus. This medieval ship probably served the Venetian empire, which had Black Sea outposts.

Never before had this type of ship been found in such complete form. The breakthrough was the quarterdeck, from which the captain would have directed a crew of perhaps 20 sailors.

“That’s never been seen archaeologically,” said Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, an expedition member at the Center for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, in Britain. “We couldn’t believe our eyes.”

A photogrammetric image of a ship from the Ottoman era that most likely went down between the 17th and 19th centuries. The discoverers nicknamed it the Flower of the Black Sea because of its ornate carvings, including two large posts topped with petals. Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

Remarkably, the find is but one of more than 40 shipwrecks that the international team recently discovered and photographed off the Bulgarian coast in one of archaeology’s greatest coups.

In age, the vessels span a millennium, from the Byzantine to the Ottoman empires, from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Generally, the ships are in such good repair that the images reveal intact coils of rope, rudders and elaborately carved decorations.

“They’re astonishingly preserved,” said Jon Adams, the leader of the Black Sea project and founding director of the maritime archaeology center at the University of Southampton.

Kroum Batchvarov, a team member at the University of Connecticut who grew up in Bulgaria and has conducted other studies in its waters, said the recent discoveries “far surpassed my wildest expectations.”

Independent experts said the annals of deepwater archaeology hold few, if any, comparable sweeps of discovery in which shipwrecks have proved to be so plentiful, diverse and well-preserved.

A photogrammetric image of the stern of the Ottoman-era ship showing coils of rope and a tiller with elaborate carvings. A lack of oxygen at the icy depths of the Black Sea left the wrecks relatively undisturbed.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“It’s a great story,” said Shelley Wachsmann of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. “We can expect some real contributions to our understanding of ancient trade routes.”

Goods traded on the Black Sea included grains, furs, horses, oils, cloth, wine and people. The Tatars turned Christians into slaves who were shipped to places like Cairo. For Europeans, the sea provided access to a northern branch of the Silk Road and imports of silk, satin, musk, perfumes, spices and jewels.

Marco Polo reportedly visited the Black Sea, and Italian merchant colonies dotted its shores. The profits were so enormous that, in the 13th and 14th centuries, Venice and Genoa fought a series of wars for control of the trade routes, including those of the Black Sea.

Brendan P. Foley, an archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., said the good condition of the shipwrecks implied that many objects inside their hulls might also be intact.

“You might find books, parchment, written documents,” he said in an interview. “Who knows how much of this stuff was being transported? But now we have the possibility of finding out. It’s amazing.”

ROMANIA

RUSSIA

Bulgaria’s

Exclusive

Economic

Zone

BLACK SEA

BULGARIA

GEORGIA

GREECE

TURKEY

Athens

Experts said the success in Bulgarian waters might inspire other nations that control portions of the Black Sea to join the archaeological hunt. They are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Dr. Foley, who has explored a number of Black Sea wrecks, said the sea’s overall expanse undoubtedly held tens of thousands of lost ships. “Everything that sinks out there is going to be preserved,” he added. “They’re not going away.”

For ages, the Black Sea was a busy waterway that served the Balkans, the Eurasian steppes, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Greece. It long beckoned to archaeologists because they knew its deep waters lacked oxygen, a rarity for large bodies of water.

The great rivers of Eastern Europe — the Don, the Danube, the Dnieper — pour so much fresh water into the sea that a permanent layer forms over denser, salty water from the Mediterranean. As a result, oxygen from the atmosphere that mixes readily with fresh water never penetrates the inky depths.

In 1976, Willard Bascom, a pioneer of oceanography, in his book “Deep Water, Ancient Ships,” called the Black Sea unique among the world’s seas and a top candidate for exploration and discovery.

A photogrammetric image of a Byzantine wreck, dating perhaps to the ninth century. Superimposed is an image of one of the expedition’s tethered robots that photographed the lost ships.CreditExpedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“One is tempted,” he wrote, “to begin searching there in spite of the huge expanse of bottom that would have to be inspected.”

In 2002, Robert D. Ballard, a discoverer of the sunken Titanic, led a Black Sea expedition that found a 2,400-year-old wreck laden with the clay storage jars of antiquity. One held remnants of a large fish that had been dried and cut into steaks, a popular food in ancient Greece.

The new team said it received exploratory permits from the Bulgarian ministries of culture and foreign affairs and limited its Black Sea hunts to parts of that nation’s exclusive economic zone, which covers thousands of square miles and runs up to roughly a mile deep.

Although the team’s official name is the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, or Black Sea MAP, it also hauls up sediments to hunt for clues to how the sea’s rising waters engulfed former land surfaces and human settlements.

Team members listed on its website include the Bulgarian National Institute of Archaeology, the Bulgarian Center for Underwater Archaeology, Sodertorn University in Sweden, and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece.

An illustration of what the research team believes the medieval ship found in the Black Sea looked like during its heyday. Credit Jon Adams/University of Southampton/Black Sea MAP

The project’s financial backer is the Expedition and Education Foundation, a charity registered in Britain whose benefactors want to remain anonymous, team members said. Dr. Adams of the University of Southampton, the team’s scientific leader, described it as catalyzing an academic-industry partnership on the largest project “of its type ever undertaken.”

Nothing is known publicly about the cost, presumably vast, of the Black Sea explorations, which are to run for three years. The endeavor began last year with a large Greek ship doing a preliminary survey. This year, the main vessel was the Stril Explorer, a British-flagged ship bearing a helicopter landing pad that usually services the undersea pipes and structures of the offshore oil industry.

Instead, archaeologists on the ship lowered its sophisticated robots to hunt for ancient shipwrecks and lost history.

In an interview, Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton said he was watching the monitors late one night in September when the undersea robot lit up a large wreck in a high state of preservation.

“I was speechless,” he recalled. “When I saw the ropes, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I still can’t.”

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Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the vessel hailed from the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople (today Istanbul), and most likely went down sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries. He said the team nicknamed it “Flower of the Black Sea” because its deck bears ornate carvings, including two large posts with tops that form petals.

In an interview, Dr. Batchvarov of the University of Connecticut said most of the discoveries date to the Ottoman era. So it was that, late one night, during his shift, he assumed that a new wreck coming into view would be more of the same.

“Then I saw a quarter rudder,” he recalled, referring to a kind of large steering oar on a ship’s side. It implied the wreck was much older. Then another appeared. Quickly, he had the expedition’s leader, Dr. Adams, awakened.

“He came immediately,” Dr. Batchvarov recalled. “We looked at each other like two little boys in a candy shop.”

Dr. Batchvarov said the wreck — the medieval one found more than a half-mile down — was part of a class known by several names, including cocha and “round ship.” The latter name arose from how its ample girth let it carry more cargo and passengers than a warship.

Dr. Adams said the remarkable color images of the lost ships derived from a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photography with the careful measurement of distances between objects, letting a computer turn flat images into renderings that seem three-dimensional.

He said tethered robots shot the photographic images with video and still cameras. The distance information, he added, came from advanced sonars, which emit high-pitched sounds that echo through seawater. Their measurements, he said, can range down to less than a millimeter.

A news release from the University of Southampton refers to the images as “digital models.” Their creation, it said, “takes days even with the fastest computers.”

Filmmakers are profiling the Black Sea hunt in a documentary, according to the team’s website.

Another part of the project seeks to share the thrill of discovery with schools and educators. Students are to study on the Black Sea, the website says, or join university scientists in analyzing field samples “to uncover the mysteries of the past.”

The team has said little publicly on whether it plans to excavate the ships — a topic on which nations, academics and treasure hunters have long clashed. Bulgaria is a signatory to the 2001 United Nations convention that outlaws commercial trade in underwater cultural heritage and sets out guidelines on such things as artifact recovery and public display.

Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the team had so far discovered and photographed 44 shipwrecks, and that more beckoned.

Which was the most important? Dr. Adams said that for him, a student of early European shipbuilding, the centerpiece was the medieval round ship. He said it evoked Marco Polo and city states like Venice. The ship, he added, incorporated a number of innovations that let it do more than its predecessors had and paved the way for bigger things to come.

“It’s not too much,” he said, “to say that medieval Europe became modern with the help of ships like these.”